Chelsea Football Club is leading the way in raising awareness about anti-Semitism in football after launching an initiative focusing on the issue and its impact on the Jewish community and society as a whole.
Launched ahead of the Premier League game against Bournemouth on 31 January, the long-term initiative is a clear demonstration that the club is welcoming to all and is supported by owner, Roman Abramovich. It forms part of the club’s on-going inclusion work, through the Chelsea Foundation’s Building Bridges campaign.
During the launch, a number of high-profile guests were invited for a formal ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, which included a candle lighting by Chief Rabbi Marvis and Holocaust survivor, Harry Spiro.
On the pitch, the centre circle was covered by a banner calling for an end to anti-Semitism and on the stadium screens, a video was shown, launching the new campaign, which includes supporters, politicians and leaders from Jewish communities around the globe.
Through the campaign, Chelsea are working with organizations and individuals in the UK and abroad, including the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Jewish Museum, the Community Security Trust, Kick It Out, the World Jewish Congress, the Anne Frank House and Maccabi GB.
Speaking in his program notes prior to the game with Bournemouth Mr. Abramovich said: ‘When I first came to Chelsea, I had two ambitions: to create world-class teams on the pitch; and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all its communities, using football as a vehicle to inspire and engage.
‘It has always been important to me to create a club that is welcoming to everyone. We actively celebrate our cultural and religious diversity and, through the work of the Chelsea Foundation, deliver programs to promote equality and tackle discrimination all over the world. However, we are all too often reminded there is more to be done.
‘Tonight’s game is an important one. On 27 January, the world observed Holocaust Memorial Day. The Holocaust was a crime without parallel in history. We must never forget such atrocities and must do our utmost to prevent them from ever happening again. It is my honor to dedicate this match to the victims of the Holocaust and to the Jewish community.
‘This evening I am proud to launch an initiative to raise awareness of and to tackle anti-Semitism in all its forms, and hope to have your support for this work.
‘This is the start of an important journey and we all have a part to play. We can all do something to challenge discrimination at our club as well as within the world around us. With your help, Chelsea can play a leading role in this vital area of work and demonstrate to everybody that we are a club open to all.’
As part of the launch night, the club also developed and distributed a steward’s guide, in partnership with the Community Security Trust and Kick It Out, to educate security staff on how to identify and react to any incidents of discriminatory behavior. The guide will be redesigned and redistributed throughout Premier League and English Football League clubs, with an additional guide for grass roots clubs also under consideration.
Fans are also encouraged to report any anti-Semitic words or actions through the distribution of 27,000 phone wallets, highlighting reporting hotlines and LED banners around the ground and asking fans to report any incidents they witnessed.
In the build-up to the launch, the Chelsea’s head coach, players and backroom staff also welcomed Holocaust survivor Harry Spiro BEM to Cobham to share the story of his experiences.
Chelsea has also established a steering committee of leading experts who are supporting the campaign, led by club Chairman, Bruce Buck.
As part of its work, the Chelsea Foundation’s equality and diversity workshops in primary schools will be extended to talk specifically about Jewish faith and culture, and the club will develop an education program to rehabilitate supporters banned for anti-Semitic behavior.
Additional activities taking place throughout the year will include educational visits to former concentration camps for staff, fans and stewards, as well as a staff training program in partnership with the Jewish Museum London focusing on Jewish faith culture and the Holocaust.
There are also plans for an exhibition at the Chelsea Museum on football and the Jewish community, and screenings of Liga Terezin – a documentary about a football league run from a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
The club’s commitment to the initiative remains ongoing and last week Stamford Bridge welcomed Mala Tribich MBE, a Holocaust survivor, to discuss her experiences in front of a gathering of supporters.
By: Jacob Fishbein